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What The Cluck! Why Quality Chicken is so Expensive

Self sustainability is a trendy goal right now. We reside within the massive group of 2020 food shortage "survivors" who realized if things hit the fan, we need food. It wasn't life or death in this situation, but it was eye opening to see just how much we rely on the food commerce chain and not the natural food chain.

With six of us, we require a lot of food. As our family has grown and high quality food consumption and ethical animal rearing became higher on the priority list, it became evident we had two options: Spend 3/4 of our monthly income on food others are producing OR invest time and money to produce our own.

Since allocating 75% of our income to food isn't sustainable, we headed into the production route. In our first year we created the infrastructure to raise enough meat birds and cows to feed our family for a full year. Going into our second year the goal is to raise enough income to begin to sustain our family. That means, enough chickens to cover the cost of our 50-60 chickens. Enough flowers to go towards the mortgage May-October. Eventually enough cows and beef to cover the cost of our own beef, etc.

When you purchase flowers from our farm, a CSA subscription in the summer months, beef or chickens from our fields, you are literally sustaining our family and we cannot thank you enough. Your support is life changing. In return we promise to provide you with the highest quality products we possibly can.

I have seriously upped my flower game this year and am so excited to be able to offer you more variety and elegance in arrangements. Our chicken, pork, and beef breeds are specifically selected for quality, and they are healthy, happy animals, fed top quality feed.

So- what's the chicken cost breakdown and why the heck is a chicken $20+?! In case you're looking to purchase farm raised chicken or raise your own, this breakdown will help visualize the costs involved.

Let's simply start with the bird.

Each chick is $2.09 (because we purchased a bulk amount)

Red Rangers are a 12 week grower versus an 8 week like the Cornish Cross. This means a much healthier, sturdier, and tastier bird, but it's four more weeks of food as well.

This go round, we decided to use a soy free non-GMO feed that uses organic ingredients but isn't certified OG. Each bird will eat about 30# over the course of 12 weeks, totaling about $12 in feed costs.

Feeding our animals quality food is incredibly important to us. We are currently feeding Mosaic Farms feed for pigs and chickens, and are impressed with the quality. This is an area you can skimp on, but the health and quality of the final product will reflect it.

We choose to eat the highest quality food we can (within certain parameters) and we're thankful to be able to offer this high quality food to our community as well. We could feed OG Payback and call it a day, but we truly want better for ourselves and our birds. We locally source as much as possible, and strive to keep our footprint as small as possible through this production.

Just between food and initial chick purchase the total per bird is $14.

Now for the infrastructure.

The first big investment needed is the chick brooder. This is where the babies come home to and where they remain until fully feathered and ready to endure the outdoors. Ours is about 8' long and 3' wide to accommodate a larger number of chicks.

It's constructed of plywood, pressure treated lumber, chicken wire, and two heat lamps with pine shavings as bedding. We were able to repurpose a few things for this, so our total cost was only about $50. For waterers, Jason found these super handy waterers he has plumbed into either 5 gallon buckets or repurposed food storage drums for the larger birds when they're outdoors.

Jason made two chicken tractors from steel pipe and pressure treated wood boards. Unfortunately for us, when we started this project lumber was at an all time high price and each chicken tractor cost us about $500. Each tarp to cover the tractor is an additional $50 which will need replaced yearly. This brings field chicken housing to a total of $1,000+$100 annually.

We're hoping to get 5-10 years out of the tractors, which would mean each tractor will raise approximately 1700 birds. This adds an additional average cost of $.58/bird over the next seven years.

The butchering set-up is another infrastructural cost.

Plucker $500

Scalding pot and burner $100

Counter and work station $80 (repurposed materials as well)

Cones $100

Extra coolers $50

Based on the same 5-10 year timeline and a 1700 bird average, butcher setup adds another $.48/bird

Not including our time/labor we're looking at an investment of approximately $15/bird. That time and labor is a commitment as well. Every day for 12 weeks Jason is out on the Kubota (a cost I didn't include in this breakdown) moving chickens through the field. We have limited vacations and time away during chicken season because they are so labor intensive.

And that, my friends, is why the pluck local, farm raised chickens are so expensive.

If you'd like to sign up for our 2022 meat share, you can check it out on the website here:

We're excited to be able to include our friends, family, and community in this venture! There will be a follow up blog covering chicken care, butcher day, and anything else along the way!

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